Sleep and a Baby

Ah. Sleep. Five letters, a short word, but it’s undoubtedly a central topic to new parents happiness (and sanity). I don’t have any sleeping advice other than the age old “sleep when the baby sleeps” (which I did and it is amazing advice), but I do want to share my experience with our sleep and our now (almost) 8 month old. If you follow me on Instagram, a lot of my posts lately are centred around sleep, and getting Alba a good sleep. I’m obsessed right now, and for good reasons.

** Before I share our experience, I do want to preface with this – you know your baby, and do what works best for you and your family. I am not a medical professional, and if you have any questions regarding sleep and safe sleep, please ask your paediatrician.**

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We’ve been blessed with a good sleeper since Alba was born (or maybe I’m wearing rose tinted glasses and I’m not remembering properly). It’s not often that I was completely sleep deprived where I felt like I could cry. Of course I’ve experienced it, but not constantly throughout her newborn stage. Most often if she was upset or awake, we could figure out the why of it.

By a “good sleeper”, I mean relatively to what I’ve seen/heard other babies do in my limited experience with babies. In my mind, she’s a good sleeper.

That all being said, she was a good sleeper based on our various soothing techniques. One being swaddling, the other one being her pacifier.

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Before I discuss our experience and reasons for a pacifier, I do want to share a little about where Alba sleeps. My original plan was for her to be in the bassinet beside us but it turns out I’m mush when it comes to my kid (figures). I am much happier when she is attached to me. She would also sleep happier/longer with me near (she has a good sniffer and she knows when her favorite person isn’t close). Also, she had reflux which made sleeping trickier when she was tiny (poor thing had an upset tummy and hated being flat on her back). All of this boils down to bed-sharing. It varies (more on that later) now but the fact remains that when I am sleeping, she is sleeping near me. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but it’s all I’ve known and almost everyone I know does it. We did choose it though, and I’ve loved it. I love cuddling her. I am ready to take steps away from it though.

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So, we introduced the pacifier when Alba was a newborn. From my understanding, there is some controversy with pacifiers (like everything else that pertains to child-rearing), with the main opinion that I’ve found being “they don’t need that.” We introduced one anyway and the main reason being was that I read that it can help reduce SIDs. Now, there are drawbacks to the pacifier, one being related to use past toddlerhood and oral development, and the other being a sleeping crutch that can be backbreaking in itself if it falls out. But, I thought I would face those head on later when the time came and that it was worth it if it would help prevent Alba from dying in her sleep. I don’t mean to sound so blasé about it, and I thought of using a euphemism but that fact of the matter is, I do look a lot at ways I can actively prevent Alba’s death. When it comes to sleeping situations I look at all the hazards. In fact, that’s my main life goal now as her mother, so why beat around the bush about it. Morbid, I know, but I find sticking my head in the sand isn’t the way I parent. Since Alba was premature, she was a higher risk for SIDs so I figured if her paci would help in even just the smallest way to help prevent it, sign us up!

(Please, please, please bear in mind that that this doesn’t mean I think that YOUR child will succumb to SIDs if you don’t introduce the pacifier, that is not my intention for you to think that. I am just giving you a peek into my mind that is always in overdrive when it comes to Alba, and how I convinced myself that she needed one. There’s enough crazy parenting advice out there that I don’t want to muck up the waters with my own. I’ve gotten enough “I don’t do what you do, I’m such a bad parent” comments that I was hesitant to write this post, because that is not my opinion nor my intention when I share. My opinion is DO WHAT WORKS BEST for your family, for your mental health, and for your baby.).

And of course the other reason I wanted Alba to have a pacifier was because I didn’t want to be one. It’s true, they do not need pacifiers, so that opinion is more of a fact, but it also doesn’t hurt her the way it seems to be implied when people tell me she doesn’t need her soother (which we lovingly refer to as “Sue Sue” by the way).

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So, the pacifier was introduced with gusto from me for my personal reasons stated above and at first she didn’t care too much for it. Eventually it became a wonderful sleep association for her and also a cue to me on if she was tired so it definitely opened some communication doors for us.

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I look at months 2-5 as Alba’s sleeping pinnacle. This is the time I look back on with stars in my eyes. She wasn’t eating as much at night, and she could fall asleep when I’d put her down awake (so long as she had Sue Sue with her), and she could nap anywhere. I would gush to my husband, “I can’t believe our dream baby.” At this time we were putting her down in her pack and play and then pulling her into bed with us a few hours later at her first feed. It was good times. Then husband left to work when Alba was 5 months old for 2.5 months and that made for a LOT of cuddle time with just me and Alba. It was a beautiful thing too. At the time it was glorious as well. During his time away, I stopped using the pack and play, Alba also started rolling so we stopped swaddling. Alba’s dad came home and of course we wanted our evenings back to binge on Grey’s Anatomy and enjoy each other’s company. I was a fool to think she’d go back to her old ways because she was not having any of the pack n play anymore. So it was the three of us, all the time. I started thinking to myself “is this how it’s going to be until she goes to kindergarten?!” “What about baby number 2?!” On top of that, Alba had started to “comfort nurse” and it’s become a sleep association for her.

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Insert the crib. I figured she’d like it a little better than her pack n play, and I do want to transition to sleeping in there full time eventually. Also, since she started rolling I just can’t handle leaving her on the bed unsupervised. The livingroom/kitchen is so far from our room that even if she did fall I wouldn’t hear her cry. She also rolls fast. I also invested in a decent baby monitor.

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My first goal was to get her to nap in the crib and now at nearly 8 months, all her naps are in there. I’ll admit its a delicate dance to get her to sleep in there (timing her naps properly, making sure she’s well fed and drowsy enough, not overtired) but its working out well for us. Night time, she is still with us.

As she moves more and more, I do feel like the time of bed-sharing is coming to an end for us. I think sleep is so important and I do believe that once we figure it out, she will sleep better and longer at night in her crib (she doesn’t wake up at night but we do what feels like a bazillion dream feeding sessions which is disrupting her sleep and my sleep). Not only that, I was a terrible sleeper my whole life and I needed my mom to sleep. I can’t sleep alone. I spent all of 8th grade in her room on the floor, and maybe a part of me wants to prevent that with Alba. Now as we transition her out. I am faced with questions like introducing a lovey, taking away her pacifier (so I don’t have to wake up to put it back in), what is the best consistent bed time routine for her, will I ever fall asleep again if she’s not next to me? All of which I will have to make decisions about soon.

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For some people bedsharing/cosleeping is the best choice ever and it works well for some families well into toddlerhood (or later). It can be a great choice for a family when done safely. Personally, for us, and for Alba, I think it’s a good idea to give her the tools to sleep better on her own. Also, its not selfish for mama’s and papa’s to take care of themselves and Alba just seems to be needing more dream feeds the more time passes and this mama needs a good nights sleep. So mama friends, give me your tips, advice, experiences on how you got baby out of your bed? Maybe something that worked for you will work for us. I am currently reading Precious Little Sleep by Alexis Dubief and it has been an amazing resource so far. Highly recommend.

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*These sleeping pictures are just that, pictures. Some are styled and some are how she fell asleep (with her bunny) and ALL are supervised. When baby is sleeping unsupervised, there should be nothing that creates an entrapment hazards. No blankets, pillows, stuffies. No dangling cords or anything within reach of the crib. No bonnets, headbands, hats. Proper sleep clothes. When I leave Alba in her crib, she only gets her soother in there with her.

 – claudine bull

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